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Wikileaks Reveals Arctic Land Grab

As ice melts, nations race to claim resources

While most of us think of the melting of the Arctic as something of an unfolding disaster, that’s not how various governments and big corporations see it. To them, it’s just another great opportunity to drill for oil and mine for other precious resources.

Diplomatic cables reporting and commenting on the recent international meeting in Greenland, and made public by Wikileaks, reveal very little interest in protecting the sensitive environment of the Arctic. There’s no mention of the threat to endangered animals, and seemingly no interest in trying to stop the ice from melting, with all the catastrophic effects on life on the rest of the planet.

Instead, it’s just a race to see who can stake a claim to the natural resources that are being uncovered as the ice melts. And Russia, in particular, is looking to the melting ice to open up a Northern Sea Route that will allow their ships to get to the Far East a third quicker than via the Suez Canal.

In some excerpts from the leaked cables:

• Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller jokes with the Americans saying “if you stay out [of a new treaty], then the rest of us will have more to carve up in the Arctic.”

• Russian State Deputy Chilingarov, following orders from the ruling United Russia Party, calls for Russia to withdraw from the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea so that Russia can stake a greater claim to the region’s sea bed.

• Russian Ambassador to NATO says, “The twenty-first century will see a fight for resources, and Russia should not be defeated in this fight.”

• Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper notes that Canada has a good working relationship with Russia with respect to the Arctic, and a NATO presence could backfire by exacerbating tensions. He says that non-Arctic members favor a NATO role in the Arctic because it would afford them influence in an area where “they don’t belong.”

• U.S. cable advises: “American commercial investments, our continuing strategic military presence, and new high level scientific and political interest in Greenland argue for establishing a small and seasonal American Presence Post in Greenland’s capital as soon as practicable.”

There’s a fuller report by the BBC, including an easily digestible TV report from BBC Newsnight.

And you can read the Wikileaks document here.

What do you say? Do you think governments will ever come together to make a real commitment to protecting the planet from climate change? Let us know in a comment below or on Facebook.